The weekend before school started I went camping with Becky on the Wedge. The Wedge is a land formation on the northern end of the San Rafael Swell in central Utah. The Wedge is a triangle of rock sitting on a slight angle, maybe 8 miles on a side, and at the southern upper tip it overlooks the canyon of the San Rafael river, the "little grand canyon."
We got there around 4 pm and found a campsite in the large camping area west of the road. Our tent site was pretty level. We set up the spring-bar tent, inflated the mattress, got bedding settled in. I always camped alone in the past. Growing up we camped a lot with the family, and I always came away feeling responsible to getting camp set up and put away. That feeling of responsibility never left me, so I never liked anyone else there with me because that feeling was associated with a sort of slave labor and being shamed if I didn't do it well. But setting up camp with Becky was completely different. It was fun, and we got it done fast.
On the way in to the Wedge we saw a flock of birds. I had never seen a flock of birds there before. Maybe three swifts wooshing past me on the edge of a cliff, a lone raven rasping high above, a silent and solitary hawk, or heard the descending whistle of a canyon wren, but never a flock. Previously, over the decades, only two remarkable things had I seen: the year the frogs came up to mate at the bottom of Buckhorn Canyon, and the year the donkeys of the eastern central Swell were mating, loudly, near Wilson Holes. That was a thing to hear. I never saw them, though. They may have been arguing.
On an ATV ride around the Wedge we came upon a herd of antelope. I'd never seen more than four antelope before there, but this herd was over 20.
After dinner, as the sun went down, with a pleasant breeze keeping the bugs away we sat in the shade of our tent and joked around and talked and enjoyed the pleasantly warm air. We wanted to watch a movie on our phone, but we didn't have one. I had some old radio shows so we listened to them. At dusk the full moon came up, looking red in the smoke from the California fires, which made the dusk feel magical. I don't remember which shows we listened to, but we talked over them and enjoyed them. After dark there was a line of thunderstorms far to the north. Each lightning flash illuminated the tops and the bottoms of the clouds, but it was dead silent. More magic. The breeze never stopped, but it was never really cool either. Both of us had coats on, Becky wearing hers and mine draped over my bare legs. Listening to the shows, enjoying the breeze, watching the distant storm. A perfect evening camping.
Thanks, Becky. I love you.
..have been very few and far between. Particularly for a drought year. Fewer storms?
June was much hotter then normal, July and August much cooler. Somehow combined to make no fires. We've had three I think this year, all small. Usually we have 50-100 fires.
I'd like to say it's the wildlands management policy that's the reason. They have been working hard over the last decade to do prescribed burns in the early spring and late fall when fires are easy to control in the rangeland and forests because the trees are full of water and fires burn slowly. Get rid of the underbrush and keep the fire out of the canopy and you have a safe situation. Congratulations, planners! Here is their website: https://smokemgt.utah.gov/ They schedule these burns based on how quickly the smoke will dissipate, using a Smoke Clearing Index as a guide for each airshed in Utah.
The Clearing Index is a measure of how well smoke is cleared form the air. Below 500 means the smoke will remain; above 100 means smoke is cleared rapidly. Airsheds, topological air movement patterns, are part of the calculation: https://www.weather.gov/slc/ClearingIndex#tab-2